Thursday, February 24, 2011


I love Iqaluit, there are no questions about it. The playground that is the arctic, however dangerous, makes my life beautiful.

For the last two weekends in a row, Robert and I took snowmobile trips. He has quickly become one of my favorite people in Iqaluit. He takes the place of my little brothers out here and is awesome to spend days exploring with.

On Saturday we decided to head off in the direction of the Bay. Last time we went out into the open and I got a feel for the danger and reality of being in Canada's Arctic. Other than the wind, I could only hear my own thoughts, it was freeing to be rid of all civilization for a short while, but it was scary. This past weekend, while we chose a route to take, we considered the dangers of each route and Robert said, "You choose, which way would you rather die?"

Massive cracks in the ice

I chose the Bay, the tide coming up, lose, broken ice and polar bears. We were out on the land for three and a half hours. The snowmobile felt like it was flying over the ice as we travelled at highway speeds. I wore my Baffin boots that are rated for negative one hundred+ Celsius and my toes went numb from the cold. We crossed the entire bay and a few hundred feet out from land we navigated some very difficult ice. The plates of ice are shifted and moved as the tides go up and down. Near land the ice sheets that lay slanted and nearly on their sides are almost a full story high and very wide. Some parts of the ice meet at peeks and are part of the skidoo trail that has been blazed by hunters and explorers. When the water moved, the ice moved and made it difficult to cross. Robert had to jump the sled, so I got off to watch. We climbed up the very slippery ice pieces to see what lay of the other side. As Robert walked back to the skidoo he said, "Look around for Polar bears, watch out." I laughed, to which he responded, "I'm serious."

Robert playing in a pool of blood where something was killed

We hit land. The sun was low in the sky but has been staying out until almost dinner time lately. The mountains that we had reached on land we so high that they blocked most of the light. I sent up a quiet prayer, knowing that if something went wrong as we tried to get the sled through the ice, we could very well die out there. It would have taken us the entire night to walk back to Iqaluit and at least an hour to continue forward, through polar bear feeding grounds, to the emergency cabin that would be our destination. Walking through the night never felt like such a daunting idea until you think about the cold and the strength of the wind out on the wide open Bay. The thought that we had no weaponry other than a large pocket knife, and no food other than a box of frozen granola bars, made me realize how under prepared we were should an emergency arise.

Robert had lost cell service and I hopped harder than ever that we would make it home safe. We rode through the most beautiful valley, for the most part covered in snow. The walls were so high and so steep that snow couldn't attach itself to most of the face. I felt like I was seeing something that so few people get to and I was immersed in thankfulness for my surroundings.

Emergency Shelter

Eventually we made it to our planned destination. At this point Robert was developing frost bite on his cheeks and I couldn't feel my neck or feet. We had to stop and explore the emergency cabin. We sat inside the dark little hut. I took my boots off and tried to warm my toes in my hands, to no avail. We ate frozen granola bars and laughed about the crunch they made. We carved our initials into the walls as so many had done before us and we read the warnings on the walls in the little shack. I didn't actually realize until that point that we were in fact on Polar bear feeding grounds. Where we were is a popular destination for hunters of the bears. The wall held warnings of what to do if you encountered a bear and I laughed thinking that most of the people who would read the warnings were smart enough to pack guns. All we had was the knowledge gained by reading the wall.

When we got home, my toes were getting ready to fall off. I got to use the battery powered socks that Aunt Janet gave me before we moved here, I was so relieved to have them.

My Sunday was just as wonderful as my Saturday. My friend Ellen called me to go for a walk. We spent some time in the Museum and then headed out on foot to the Bay where we played on our arctic play ground like we would have when we were six years old.

Ellen standing on the sea floor between ice bergs

The ice was smoother than any ice I've seen before, with no snow on it, I felt like the world was our skating rink. We climbed and slipped and fell and explored the day light away. We embraced every morsel of childish enthusiasm within us. As we walked up to the store to grab hot chocolates, I thought, 'Iqaluit is perfect, I am in love with this place.'

Crawling through an ice cave

Monday, February 14, 2011

Skidoo Day

Yesterday was my day off and I wanted to make the most of it. I woke up at 7:30, without an alarm, this is typical for me now as my body has become so adjusted to bakers hours again. I worked out for an hour, showered had a really great breakfast and got ready for a day date with our friend Robert. All the while, Matt was snoring away.

Robert had told me that he would take me out on the sled someday and yesterday happened to be the perfect day. It was negative forty something with the windchill but it was such an incredible, sunny day. The perfect day for my first Skidoo ride.

Robert came over and helped me get suited up for the outing. I don't own snow pants and I thought that three pairs of pants would work just as well. Robert laughed at this and brought an extra pair of sled worthy pants for me to wear. It was a good thing too. When we were out on the bay I could still feel a slight chill through the snow pants and all three pairs of pants I wore underneath. I found myself grateful for his advice.

Before we hit the trails, Robert looked back at me and asked if I was a screamer.

At the end of the Road to Nowhere

I'm not sure if he could hear me laughing behind him the whole time. My first skidoo ride turned out to be the most fun thing I've done since arriving in Iqaluit. We took trails up towards Apex and Robert took me as far North as the end of the Road to Nowhere. He then took me as far South as I've been here. We rode out over the Bay until we couldn't see anything in any direction. We couldn't hear a thing out there when we stopped the engine. I got off the machine and thought, 'wow, i live in the arctic.' I asked how far we could actually go, he said it was far but we could go as far as moving water and when he saw the light in my eyes, he proceeded to tell me that there were polar bears out there, and that we could get stuck and drift away on an ice float. Shutting down the idea. Some day I would love to see the floe edge and a live polar bear.

I got to drive back, it felt freeing although my companion felt the need to poke fun at the safe speed I kept us moving at. We stopped to watch a dog team run past us, waving at the man on the sled as he passed with a smile on his face. Iqaluit is such an exquisite place and getting out on the land and ice was such an inspiring experience. I enjoyed every second of it, the way the wind made my eyes water, the way my tears froze on my lashes and cheeks. The sun felt so welcoming and as we rode out further on the bay it was as if we were heading right into the light.

The visor on my helmet fogged up too fast every time I put it down to avoid the wind so I left it up most of the trip in order to see clearly. My face frosted over and stung but it didnt matter, all I cared was that I felt present, happy and invigorated.

We got back to land and rode down to Sylvia Grinnel park, which was lovely to see and we made plans to visit in the future when the water is running free. There are lots of picnic spots and before Robert moves to Nova Scotia and Matt and I head home for vaccation in the summer, we intend to picnic.

Matthew, Robert and I headed out for linner (lunch/dinner) and I actually paid for food for the first time since moving to Iqaluit. I have been a very thrify saver and have relied only on the food allowance we have through work. It felt good to spend real cash on real not-so-diet food for once.

All in all my Saturday was an excellent day. I am so thankful for the snow, the ice and good company.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Breaking Up

I didn't know how it would feel to really have parted ways. My heart is broken and the vast open chill that is Iqaluit serves as a metaphor for my life right now. To step out side and look over the spanses of emptiness sends chills up my spine that remind me of how alone I really feel here. Isolation is terrifying.
I have loved Matthew since I met him and been with him for five and a half years. High school sweethearts, he was my first love and he's been by my side through all of my troubles. He held my hand through the fragile trials of teenage hood and loved me through it all. I know that maybe it had to come to an end and I know that we were far from perfect for each other but that doesn't change the half a decade we spent as each others best friend.
I never understood breakups, I still don't. I don't know how people who at one time or another meant so much to each other, can cut each other out of their lives. I want to be his best friend until the end of my life but I'm seeing the impossibility behind the idea.
My Aunt Lyn once sat me down as a child to offer some advice and comfort as I dealt with my parents divorce. My siblings and I were very young but to children so small, something like the end of a marriage is a massive ordeal. I didn't understand the way it was so difficult for my parents to communicate. Their anger towards each other hurt me to see. Aunt Lyn said, "the more you love someone, the easier it is to hate them." She was trying to justify the way they spoke to each other and the line stuck with me all these years. I used it to soothe myself time and time again. Now it is coming into play again in my life.
It is so hard not to have the support I need here and its hard not to run to his arms for the safety and comfort that I have known for so long. There have been times when we decided to take breaks from each other but always ended up soothing one another through the hurt of it and it would never fail to bring us back together, whether it should have happened that way or not.
This time, we decided to take a break because I found myself unsure. When its right, your just supposed to know... aren't you?
He wants me to be happy, he keeps saying that and all I want for him is happiness. If, in the long run, we'll be happier apart, then it should happen now. He is determined to succeed at being apart but its difficult when we share mutual friends and our only support system is made up of co-workers. For the time being, we are living as roommates, which makes it hard to avoid thinking about things. He doesn't want to let me into his mind, or talk openly and I know its because hes afraid that we will end up right back where we started. Instead he uses avoidance and treats me insensitively to avoid sharing emotions that will bring us closer.
If I were home, I could trade the safety of his arms for my dads or my brothers and the loving conversation for the companionship of my sister. I could climb into my moms bed and cry with her. I could find support around every corner. But the reality is, I am stuck in the arctic and as much as I love my friends here and as supportive as they've been, nothing compares to knowing that the people who love you most are minutes away from you.
I don't want to give away this experience, I don't want to give up on my job, no matter how much it exhausts me. I don't want to leave here and look back with regret. Not booking a ticket for the next flight out is the hardest thing I've forced myself to do. At times, I look in the mirror and I watch the tears run down my face, I ask myself how the hell I'm going to make it through this. I never anticipated moving here and ending up so alone. I didn't know until now, how truly difficult it is to be away from family. I wonder every second of everyday, what good will come out of this. I pray for direction and strength and the courage to follow my heart, but today, I cannot see the light in the situation. I am hurting so badly and although I know it will pass, I also know it will be hard to live through.